Original Research

Traditional eye medicine practice in Benin-City, Nigeria

J. A. Ebeigbe
African Vision and Eye Health | South African Optometrist: Vol 72, No 4 | a54 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v72i4.54 | © 2013 J. A. Ebeigbe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 December 2013 | Published: 08 December 2013

About the author(s)

J. A. Ebeigbe, Department of Optometry, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Benin, Nigeria

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The use of traditional eye medicines as a form of eye care in Africa is very common.  However, there is concern about the harmful effects of some traditional medicines on the eyes. This study was a cross-sectional survey conducted in Benin-City, Edo state, Nigeria. Sixty-eight traditional medicine practitioners (TMPs) who treated eye conditions participated in this study.  Most (87%) were males and 13% were females. Their age ranged between 25 to 65 years with a mean age of 42.25 ± 2.14 years.  Information was obtained through one-on-one oral interviews and a structured questionnaire consisting of open-ended questions. The most common method of training (46%) was by father-to-son tutelage. Conjunctivitis, itching and poor vision were the most common conditions treated by all practitioners. The majority of the TMPs (62%), practiced full time while 38% practiced part time. Forty six percent considered patients’ case histories as more important than physical examination of the eye while 54% felt both history and examination were equally important. Thirty-six percent of practitioners reported inverting the upper eyelids as part of their examination. Couching of cataracts was done by 38%. While
49% had referred ‘difficult’ or ‘stubborn’ cases to orthodox hospitals, 51% had never referred a case.  Traditional healers are well accepted in their communities and will continue to be consulted
by the people.  Health education programs with emphasis on safe eye care practices need to be established for traditional healers. Working with healers and training them to recognize cases needing urgent referral and encouraging the use of non-harmful practices may provide a more sustainable health care structure in the community. Cooperation between these two aspects of medicine is extremely important for the provision of primary eye care services in rural Africa. (S Afr Optom 2013 72(4) 167-172)




Traditional eye medicine; traditional healers; eye diseases; health service utilization; Nigeria


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